On June 19, my 21st wedding anniversary, I’m facing some issues. Aside from the fact that all the symptoms of the lymphoma I had several years ago have returned, I’m going through a divorce, I’m living like a vagabond while relying on the kindness of friends and I’m waiting to return to my own house.
I haven’t yet said anything about the recurrence of my lymphoma, not wanting to discuss it with anyone until my divorce is finalized. Not a great multitasker, I need to deal with situations one at a time.
And, although they don’t loom as large as the issue of cancer, these other issues are important to me, too.
In regard to all of these issues: I’m waiting. Waiting for a doctor’s appointment; waiting for a diagnosis; waiting for my divorce to be finalized; and waiting to return to my home. I’m waiting in solitude.
In solitude because I must face my issues alone. I must confront being alone, while alone. I have to spend time in my own skin with myself, by myself. I need to return to my cottage and create a home for myself, while alone.
Moreover, to continue writing these pieces about what’s transpiring in my life, I need to be alone. For me, creativity always comes from a quiet place where I can hear myself and those quiet sounds that are so important — sounds like seagulls screeching as they fly overhead, like the waves of the Gulf breaking on the shore, like a breeze stirring the leaves in the trees of my backyard, like the sound of — nothing.
I feel as though I’m about to step through a doorway I’ve never entered before. I’m afraid there’s no floor there, just empty space. Yet, I must walk through. I will plant a foot down on the other side of that door. Either I’ll fall into an abyss or I’ll find a firm footing.
This is why I’ve chosen solitude. I can’t accomplish what I need to do while allowing myself too much time in the society of other people.
It’s too distracting. I can’t afford to have my attention diverted. I need to, “... still and quiet my soul ... within me,” as was advised in the Book of Proverbs.
I can’t face my demons, can’t face cancer, can’t feel my fear, nor fully experience any triumphs in store for me while hopping from one social engagement to the next, running from party, to bar, to restaurant, etc.
How can I listen if I’m hearing the incessant chatter of strangers, loud music, the television and the cacophony of noise that comes from so many distractions?
Here, I’ll make a distinction. I don’t become scattered while in the presence of true friends. Somehow, certain people, when together, create their own quiet rooms without walls.
In this kind of space, the only background “noise” is like the heavy hush one hears in a cathedral. It’s the kind of sound that only helps one to hear more acutely.
When I talk with a true friend, we can be in the midst of a crowd, the hottest club in Manhattan or out on a busy beach. We can be in a coffee shop, on a crowded street — anywhere — but we’re still talking to and with each other.
When these dialogues are taking place, there’s a genuine exchange between persons. There’s reciprocity of honesty, truth and wisdom. Why do these connections exist between certain individuals? I don’t know. It’s a question better posed to philosophers, to psychologists or to poets.
I do know while waiting I’m searching for treasure. The treasures I’m seeking are best discovered in solitude and with the aid of friendship. I’ll discover them in quietness.
This is not a self-imposed exile for exile’s sake. This is me, being with myself, listening to myself; being with friends with whom I have authentic relationships; listening to my friends and relating to people with whom I’m transparent and from whom I receive (and hopefully give) candor, veracity and prudence.
Strangely, during these past months, I’ve been, for the most part, serene. I do sometimes feel lonely. Yet, I’m not anxious. Nor do I feel I’m missing social opportunities.
My greatest opportunity at this juncture is to wait and listen to my life. I intend to wait, to listen, to take hold of the messages I hear while in solitude, while in a place of personal peace and with the comfort and support of a very few true friends.